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Thread: A2 vs 3V for a knife.

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    Default A2 vs 3V for a knife.

    What are the pertinent differences between A2 and CPM 3V for use in a knife? Is 3V desirable enough to pay the premium for it? This is for a knife to be used for knife things, not beating it through a log to split it, stabbing it into a tree to stand on it or other such tomfoolery.

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    Unfortunately this question will conjure opinions. It is subjective and up for personal preference.

    For ages, many people have been quite content with various carbon steels...and for good reason.

    In recent times there seems to be a new super steel every month or so...and you will never keep up with the releases...or variants that have subtle differences from different producers...then there is the heat treat variable that poses a stumbling block for many.

    I am in the camp of guys that have tried a lot of different steels and have found something that I like VERY much (it is neither of the two you mention BTW), but because we are all different, I hesitate to suggest that it would be "best" for you.

    The only solid advice I feel I can give you is to try and sample both and decide if the difference is worth it to you. And this suggestion is putting the cart in front of the horse isn't it? But honestly, it is hard to say what is better until you have experienced the advantages (and potential downsides i.e. sharpening) first hand, and weigh that info against your preferences and desires.

    Short (and perhaps better) answer, find a maker you really like, get to know him, and (more importantly) get him/her to know you, and together decided how to make the knife and what to make it from.

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    To be honest, I never saw a difference in A2 v O1 in my knives but have heard 3V is a very good steel but have no first hand experience.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BearKinder View Post
    What are the pertinent differences between A2 and CPM 3V for use in a knife? Is 3V desirable enough to pay the premium for it? This is for a knife to be used for knife things, not beating it through a log to split it, stabbing it into a tree to stand on it or other such tomfoolery.
    I have both and both can make fine knife blades with a good geometry and heat treat.



    Crucible's website offers some decent information if looking for specifics. http://www.crucible.com/eselector/ge...eralpart1.html

    From MatWeb, Material Property Data:

    "CPM 3V is a new tool steel made by the Crucible Particle Metallurgy process, designed to provide maximum resistance to breakage and chipping in a highly wear-resistant steel. CPM 3V offers impact toughness greater than A2, D2, Cru-Wear or CPM M4, approaching the levels of S7 and other shock resistant grades, while providing excellent wear resistance, high hardness and thermal stability for coatings. Intended to be used at HRC 58-60 CPM 3V can replace high alloy tool steels in wear applications where chronic tool breakage and chipping problems are encountered.
    The CPM process produces very homogeneous, high quality steel characterized by superior dimensional stability, grindability, and toughness compared to steels produced by conventional processes.

    Information provided by Crucible Specialty Metals."


    In practical use, I experience little difference between A2 and 3V with all things being equal. I do notice the difference between 01, 1095 (or the ilk) and 3V rather quickly. Some find 3V more difficult to sharpen when using natural stones. Since I like thin blades, I can't tell much of a difference. Certainly a thicker blade is going to reflect the wear resistance contrast more rapidly between the two steels. This might be something to think about for some users that are relatively new to sharpening in the field without all of the gadgets.

    "Worth and value" concepts are terms to be evaluated in the eye of the beholder, IMO. We may have different standards, requirements, economy, etc.

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    I am going to ramble for a little bit. I want to say upfront that this is just my opinion from information gathered over the years. I am not a knife maker, just a user. some of this you might know already some you may not. It is all based on my limited knowledge of the two steels.

    Both are tool steels, stain resistant but not stainless. I believe A2 has been around longer so it has a track record of being used in knives. 3v is a relativly new steel to the knife making game. I have a large A2 chopper that I have beat the tar out of with no ill affects. I also own several 3v scandi grind knives that I have used a decent amount. I believe that on paper 3v is a tougher steel meaning the edge should in theory last longer. Along with that toughness comes a knife that is harder to sharpen for the very same reason. I have seen that the A2 is easier to sharpen, for me!

    The scandi 3v knives that I own come from Dan Koster and are heat treated by Paul Boss. The reason Dan chose 3v is because of the toughness of the steel and being able to go with a zero scandi grind with out being as concerned with edge chiping. Most of the people I have seen have had no problems with chiping. I will tell you that the 3v takes me a long time to sharpen with diamond sharpening stones, but the edge stays that way with simple stropping.

    I am pretty sure that 3v is able to be used at a higher RC rating without concern.

    In a nutshell if you want something that can hold an edge a very long time I would go with 3v.

    If you want mountains of information and debate on this subject I suggest you go to Bladeforums.com and search the subject. be prepared to read a lot of information.

    I hope this helps even a little bit.

    Paul

    One last thing, 3v is going to cost you more. only you can decide if the cost is worth the additional benefit.

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    I would add one question to my previous post:

    What steels do you have experience with, and what did you like or not like about them?

    The original question may be really easy to answer if you have used A2 before. i.e. if you used A2 and it held an edge well enough and you never chipped or broke the blade, why pay for increase toughness and wear resistance?

    Using the chart posted above and these descriptions of toughness and wear resistance, perhaps you can better understand what you might hope to gain?


    Wear resistance: Just like it sounds, wear resistance is the ability to withstand abrasion. Generally speaking, the amount, type, and distribution of carbides within the steel is what determines wear resistance.

    Toughness: The ability to take an impact without damage, by which we mean, chipping, cracking, etc. Toughness is obviously important in jobs such as chopping, but it's also important any time the blade hits harder impurities in a material being cut (e.g., cardboard, which often has embedded impurities).
    Last edited by unit; 06-23-2011 at 11:52 AM.

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    Thanks, guys. That Crucible chart helps a lot.

    So, I guess my initial thought that it'll be harder to sharpen with natural stones is right. I like to keep the same sharpening setup I have now, as I'm quite good with it.

    So, despite the fact that according to the numbers, 3V is worth the price increase, I think I'll save myself some money and go with the A2, which I am much more familiar with (being a machinist, A2 is one of my favorite steels to work with). I'm used to stropping my axe often anyway, so doing the same with my knife isn't a big deal (the knife I'm looking at is convex), and I'm used to My Jarvenpass and Helle knives which are not maintenance free super steel by any means.

    Thanks for the info.

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    Dr. Fishguts Bush Class Basic Certified kgd's Avatar
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    I honestly think that the steel composition has very little relevance to whether or not I like a knife. I rarely find a perceivable difference between the different steel types I do own. Also find that knives of the same steel differ quite a bit in their behaviour so I tend to think the variation in heat treat across knives can blur the theoretical distinctions between steels as provided in charts like the one above.

    Basically it comes down to the blade profile, edge geometry and handle ergos that trump everything about knife performance for me. A slightly less comfortable handle between two knives of different steels will always be the deciding factor in my choice. I made a similar post elsewhere where somebody recommended somebody go with a 3V barkie over an A2. I suggested for the $30 difference in costs between the same model across steel type might be better invested in a fancier handle material with the A2. You'll get more direct enjoyment out of the handle than you will a little stamp that says 3V on the blade.
    That is of course if the aesthetics or worth it to you. At least its easier to convince others that the pretty knife on your belt is worth something.

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    Quote Originally Posted by BearKinder View Post
    Thanks, guys. That Crucible chart helps a lot.
    I forgot to mention that that chart is a good source, but keep in mind that it assumes something about heat treat. Generally, these charts consider the performance of the steel at the hardness that is recommended for the applications for which the steel is designed (and the primary design of many of these steels is NOT for bush craft knives)

    Quote Originally Posted by kgd View Post
    I honestly think that the steel composition has very little relevance to whether or not I like a knife. I rarely find a perceivable difference between the different steel types I do own.
    This is what I was trying to get at originally (so many variables that it becomes subjective). As sad as it seems, I see a lot of trends toward using steels that are phenomenal on paper, but the resulting knife resembles a railroad track section with an edge and not surprisingly the knife is less than remarkable for many duties other than prying due to the poor geometry. (but that knife would be GREAT for the tasks mentioned in the last few words of the original post)

    I would also point out that it may or may not be harder to sharpen than what you are familiar with...again edge geometry and heat treat can play heavily into this. This has been demonstrated numerous times (pick two very different knives in the same steel, and note the differences in sharpening).

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    3V is significantly tougher than A2, but the biggest perks to me are that it is less prone to staining and has better edge retention.

    It is in all ways, except ease of sharpening, a better steel. But if you don't plan to abuse the knife like you said in the original post... field sharpening shouldn't be an issue with the better edge retention. Strop it on your belt if you need, but otherwise it should stay good to go.

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